Tuesday, June 08, 2010

World Cup

I have to admit, in the past I may not have been as excited for the World Cup since U.S. 1994 as I am now. I can't really pinpoint why, but something about this World Cup just has me really jazzed up. World Cup 2002 was hard, I was in law school and had a young baby (and the 12 time difference didn't help either). Germany 2006 was a bit more involved, but when the U.S. crashed out after stinking up the joint in the group stage, I was not as involved--although the final was spectacular!.

No, for some reason I am really ginned up about this World Cup. Part of it could be that it is taking place in South Africa, the first time in Africa. Part of it could be that I have been following the game much more closely than I have in the past. Maybe it is that now I am older and no longer rue the fact that I may have wasted my game as a young man (although objectively, I was never that good to make the World Cup Team). Maybe it is my children are now old enough to see and appreciate the game (although my oldest is not that into the game, but my 4 year old is almost as excited as me--but probably can't sit through a game right now).

So the U.S. will open against England--and maybe that helps. The history between the sides, the political relationship, the fact that so many people in America follow the Premier League. I have spent some time thinking about going to a bar to watch the game--but I don't know if my nerves could handle it. I have to say that I am getting distracted at work (a dangerous time for that to be happening).

So, I want to express my passion for this game and never seem to know where to start. First, this is a game filled with history, with links to the past and projections into the future. Much has been made of the England-U.S. match, the first such meeting since 1950 when the U.S. pulled the now famous upset. But there is the interesting fact that Brazil could win their sixth World Cup--the first to do so and the only country to have been in every World Cup final tournament.

Then there is the rarity of a winter World Cup (as they don't happen in the Southern Hemisphere very often, the last being in Argentina in 1978). There is the history of South Africa being made.

But for me, soccer is the ultimate team and individual game. A stellar singualr performance by a goalkeeper can keep a team in the game (see Tim Howard against Argentina in a friendly last year). Then there is the striker or midfielder who throws a team on his back and carries them to the win (see Zinedine Zidane) or Pele. There can be subsets of the squad, the intricate dancing of the Spanish midfield that can simply make you just sit down in wonder. It is the creativity and artistry going forward. It is the discipline and shape of a defensive squad. The tactics and countertactics all going on at the same time. The fluidity and the power of the players. The passion and delight of the fans. The nationalism and internationalism of the tournament. It can be the passion and unexpectedness of a team like U.S. beating Spain last year in the Confederations Cup, the first time Spain had lost a game in 37 matches. Then there are the games of two halves--U.S. vs. Brazil in the Confederations Cup or more recently U.S. vs. Turkey in a friendly.

How about this for history--no European nation has ever won the World Cup held outside of Europe? How about in 18 World Cups, only seven nations have won the World Cup. How about Didier Drogba, the striker from Cote d'Ivorie who may have single-handedly stopped a civil war?

Why am I passionate about this game? It is the greatest game on Earth. It has heroes and villians. It has history and spontaneity.

The World Cup Finals--the single most watched sporting event on the Planet. Billions of people hanging on every word, every shot, save, kick and goal. The pride of nations tied up in the deeds of 23 men from 32 nations--all striving to do one thing--lift this trophy and be crowned Champions of the World in the World's game.

I can't wait.

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